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Goal Setting

By Kelly Machan, M.A. and Karin S. Ryan, M.A.

Goal Setting: Definition

  • A goal is a something a person plans or intends to achieve
    • A personal or organizational desired end-point
    • Many people try to reach goals within a specific time frame by setting deadlines
  • A desire or an intention becomes a goal if someone takes action to achieve it
  • Similar to purpose or aim
    • Intrinsic value
    • Abstract / non-abstract

2. Setting Short- and Long-Term Goals

  • To create short-term goals, we need to know what our long term goals are!
  • It is easy to just start working, but if we do not know what exactly we are working for, we can lose motivation and focus
  • When setting short-term goals, remember SMART (Locke's Goal Setting Theory)
    • S = Specific
    • M = Measurable
    • A = Attainable
    • R = Realistic
    • T = Timely
  • SMART: S for Specific
    • Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus and define what we're going to do
    • What are you going to do, Why is this important, How are you going to do it?
    • Ensure that the goals you set are specific, clear, and management
  • SMART: M for Measurable
    • Choose a goal with measurable progress so you can see the change occur
    • Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward your goal
  • SMART: A for Attainable
    • When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to find ways you can make them come true.
    • Goals too far out of reach are often too much to commit to
    • A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you
    • The feeling of success which this brings helps you remain motivated
  • SMART: R for Realistic
    • Not easy, but do-able
    • A realistic project may push your skills/knowledge, but it shouldn't break them
    • Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic
    • Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort – too difficult and you set the stage for failure; too low sends the message that you aren't very capable. Set the bar high enough for satisfying achievement.
  • SMART: T for Timely
    • Set a time frame for the goal to be completely by; putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work toward
    • Time must be measurable, attainable, and realistic

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

Goal Setting (pdf)